Scott Z. Burns Interviews ChloÃ« Grace Moretz
ABOVE: CHLOË GRACE MORETZ AND SCOTT Z. BURNS REHEARSING THE LIBRARY AT THE PUBLIC THEATER. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOAN MARCUS.
When the audience walks into the theater at The Public, 17-year-old actress Chloë Grace Moretz is already onstage, lying stationary on a plain desk. In The Library, a new play written by Scott Z. Burns and directed by Steven Soderbergh, Moretz plays high school student Caitlin Gabriel, and Caitlin has just been shot.
As Caitlin goes into surgery, the narrative of the shooting is being written by frantic parents and traumatized students. Like any good story, this narrative has heroes and villains, and the casualties are quickly divided into brave martyrs and cowardly co-conspirators.
Following on from The Informant!, Contagion, and Side Effects, The Library is the fourth collaboration between Burns and Soderbergh, and their first play together. It is also Moretz’s first play. The cast and scenery are sparse, but effective, with certain actors taking on multiple roles. The weight of the play falls on Moretz’s performance.
With a week and a half remaining in the play’s run, playwright Burns interviewed Moretz about her experience thus far.
SCOTT Z. BURNS: Should I call you Chloë G. Moretz, or Chloë Grace Moretz?
CHLOË GRACE MORETZ: Chloë G. Like Kevin G. from Mean Girls. I’ll call you Scott Z.
BURNS: So, Chloë, it’s good to talk to you again. It seems like it was yesterday that we last spoke.
MORETZ: I wonder. It might have been yesterday…
BURNS: In the play, The Library, directed by Steven Soderbergh at the Public Theater, you play the character of Caitlin Gabriel.
MORETZ: Yes, I do.
BURNS: And that character is asked to make a very profound choice in the play, so I thought I would ask you about a number of choices that you have to make on a daily basis.
BURNS: Some of these were actually suggested to me by Steven Soderbergh.
MORETZ: Oh, god, that sounds scary. Okay…
BURNS: Given the choice between listening to music with headphones vs. earbuds, where do you come out?
MORETZ: It’s a hard choice. It slightly depends on the music I’m listening to—headphones are not so convenient, but you can get better bass, so I think for sound quality, I’d choose headphones.
BURNS: Given the choice between cotton or wool…
BURNS: You seem very certain about that one. I like it. This is a question you’ve probably been asked a lot in the last few months, because this is your first play, but now that you have most of a play under your belt, what do you think you like better: movies or plays?
MORETZ: It’s hard. In movies, you have the choice to be OCD, and I enjoy that—I enjoy being able to perfect every little thing as much as I want to, and then I feel that I’ve really done my all. But I love the spontaneity of plays and of being onstage, because that’s an energy that you can’t really fabricate in movies. So I honestly don’t really have a choice of either; I enjoy both incredibly.
BURNS: So you’ve elected not to answer my question…
MORETZ: I gave a good answer, though!
BURNS: It was a good answer; I liked it. Let’s talk about some other things. What would you choose given the options of either Soul Cycle, or riding a bike outside in the actual world where there are birds and—
MORETZ: —Soul Cycle.
MORETZ: Soul Cycle. [laughs] Soul Cycle.
BURNS: Alright. Given a choice between telling a lie that allows everybody to live happily ever after, or committing yourself to telling the truth—what do you think is a better way for people to treat each other?
MORETZ: Truth, of course.
BURNS: No matter what?
MORETZ: I hate when things are sugar-coated. I’d rather have the ugliest truth than the best lie.
BURNS: Given the choice between black, white, or gray…
MORETZ: Gray. For sure.
BURNS: What about looking at somebody’s emails or texts, or confronting them in the real world—what do you think is the better way to go?
MORETZ: It’s hard to confront someone without knowing, [but] I think the first thing you should do in a relationship—any kind of relationship—is confront. Then, if they seem shady, maybe go for the email or the text message.
BURNS: Where do you weigh in on Twitter vs. Instagram?
MORETZ: Instagram. It’s more exciting to see your favorite celebrities’ worlds through their eyes.
BURNS: Who are your favorite celebrities—your favorite people to follow on Instagram?
MORETZ: That’s it.
BURNS: That’s just one.
MORETZ: [laughs] Yup.
BURNS: You don’t even follow me on Instagram?
MORETZ: You have Instagram, Scott?
MORETZ: Then you, for sure.
BURNS: Here’s another one. Given a choice between playing a character like Caitlin Gabriel or being a vampire…
MORETZ: Vampires are kind of done.
BURNS: But you got to play an awesome vampire—weren’t you an awesome vampire?
MORETZ: I did get to play an awesome vampire.
BURNS: What about playing real characters, or characters who are—
MORETZ: With a supernatural character you can do stupid stuff and be kind of crazy, but, it’s it’s harder to act the truth than to lie to society—that we’re all vampires and stuff like that. It’s easier for me to play a vampire than it is to play Caitlin, but maybe I’d take the harder one.
BURNS: When you prepare for Caitlin, what do you do? Tell me about an average night: how you get ready to go and do something as brutal as a play a teenage girl who’s been shot in a high school shooting.
MORETZ: Well, I get dinner, if I have time, and then I show up off stage, and I get dressed, put all my stuff on. I sit down and put my headphones in, listen to on a couple of songs, and think about a couple of people—to start to wrap my head around the whole thing and the darkness of it. Then, two minutes before I walk on stage, I watch real video footage—the 911 call—from Columbine. The video finishes right before I step on stage to go lie on the table for 15 minutes before we open the house and start the show.
BURNS: What songs do you listen to? Do you listen to any of the songs that I sent you?
MORETZ: I listen to those earlier in the day, because they’re lighter. But a song that really affects me is “Fix You” by Coldplay. It’s a very common song—it’s very popular—but it really affects me. It shows you the idea of trying as hard as you can, and never being able to help anyone, which is scary.
BURNS: So I guess if my next question is Coldplay or Radiohead, I’m pretty sure I know where you’re going to come out.
MORETZ: That’s a hard one, though—I am in love with Radiohead. Their music speaks beyond any era, it almost comes from a different being of music. So in that sense, I’d probably choose Radiohead.
BURNS: If you could choose to do something other than act—anything in the whole wide world—what would you do?
MORETZ: I’ve had this dream since I was a little kid, and I think it’s because I’m so terrified of airplanes and helicopters, because I’d want to be a pilot. I’ve always wanted to.
MORETZ: I think I’d feel really free flying a plane alone up there or flying a helicopter. I’d feel really tranquil. And also because I would get over my fear of airplanes. When you’re a pilot, and you know all the ways to survive an airplane crash and how low the chances are, you feel safer.
BURNS: Speaking of airplanes, what do you like better—living in L.A. or New York, now that you’ve been here for a little while?
MORETZ: New York. For sure. It’s so spontaneous, and I see more of my best friends from around the world in New York than I see anyone in L.A. Los Angeles is like a movie; you don’t really interact with people. You do the things you have to do and you get your job done. But, when you’re in New York, just going to get a water down the street, you interact with hundreds of people. You’re walking through people’s lives, and there’s a lot more interaction, which I enjoy. But, living in L.A. is a much easier existence.
BURNS: I completely agree with that, except for dogs—if you’re going to have a dog, it’s easier in L.A. than in New York.
MORETZ: That’s true, it’s much easier to have a dog and a child in L.A. I don’t think I’d want to raise a kid in New York, I’d have to go to Brooklyn or something.
BURNS: Are you more a dog or cat person?
MORETZ: Dog, because I’m allergic to cats. I wanted a hairless cat, but then I found out that hairless cats aren’t hypoallergenic, so I’d still be allergic.
BURNS: You know that Steven Soderbergh is a cat person.
MORETZ: I know, he’s a huge cat person. My brother Colin is the most cat person of anyone I’ve ever met in my life, and I think he’s right there beside Steven.
BURNS: You seem to have a lot of brothers. I think you have eight or nine. I’m pretty certain about that. If you had to choose to have one more additional brother and it was between me and Steven Soderbergh, who would you choose?
MORETZ: A choice between you or Steven!
BURNS: Yes. If you were going to have another brother.
MORETZ: Oh, god… I’m going to take the high road here, but I’m going to give an explanation. Steven is [my brother] Trevor—he’s not afraid to say the shit that no one else wants to say, he says it, and he does it. Then you are like me, and like Colin. We are a bit more quiet, we don’t talk to everyone, but we get our point across more elegantly and we care about people’s emotions. Both of you are very easily fit into the mold of my family.
BURNS: Alright. I’m going to let you off the hook for that one.
MORETZ: Thank you.
BURNS: I don’t know if I have any more questions for you… Do you have questions for me?
MORETZ: Who’s your favorite actor in the play? [laughs]
BURNS: That’s easy. You are my favorite actor in the play.
MORETZ: Oooh… Rough. Who do you like better, me or Steven?
BURNS: I’m going take the low road and just go with Steven, because I’ve known him a lot longer. But check back with me in 10 years—it could be totally different. If I wrote a movie and I asked you to be in it, and your choices were either being some kind of animal or continuing to be a human being, what would you rather be?
MORETZ: Ooh. An animal as in a voice character?
BURNS: No, a full-on animal. Like a bear, or a lion, or a manatee. After the play, in another week or so, I’ll need to find another job, and I’d love to be working with you, what sort of animal character should I write for you?
MORETZ: The obvious choice is a manatee right now, and then a koala.
THE LIBRARY IS CURRENTLY IN PERFORMANCES AT THE PUBLIC THEATER IN NEW YORK, AND WILL RUN THROUGH APRIL 27. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE PUBLIC’S WEBSITE.